Rolls-Royce’s fully electric aircraft the Spirit of Innovation completed its maiden flight in the UK on Wednesday. The airplane flew for 15 minutes at the Ministry of Defense Boscombe Down aircraft testing site in Wiltshire, England.
Rolls-Royce claims the Spirit of Innovation‘s 400 kW electric powertrain is “the most power-dense battery pack ever assembled for an aircraft.”
The company’s goal is for the airplane’s speed to exceed 300 miles per hour. It’s working to beat the world record set by a Siemens electric plane that reached a speed of 210 mph in 2017 by improving on the battery and propulsion system.
Rolls-Royce didn’t indicate in its announcement what speed the Spirit of Innovation achieved, and it has not yet given a date for the world record attempt.
Here’s a broad overview of how the plane works, which points out that “the powertrain will run at 750 watts, similar to a Formula E racer, enabling high-power output at relatively low weight”:
The Spirit of Innovation project is a part of ACCEL (Accelerating the Electrification of Flight), a British aerospace innovation program. Half of the project’s funding is provided by the UK’s Aerospace Technology Institute, in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, and Innovate UK.
Rolls-Royce says it will use the the ACCEL project technology, and also measure the performance of the aircraft and the data collected on the maiden flight, and apply it to commuter aircraft and electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) products.
As Electrek‘s Scooter Doll wrote in early July:
While Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. has yet to deliver an electric vehicle, Rolls-Royce Holdings has a keen focus on aircraft and [has] a road map to create net zero emissions in operations by 2030, followed by all products by 2050… Rolls-Royce Holdings remains one of the largest manufacturers of airplane engines in the world.
UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
By backing projects like this one, the [British] government is helping to drive forward the boundary pushing technologies that will leverage investment and unlock the cleaner, greener aircraft required to end our contribution to climate change
Rolls-Royce and airframer Tecnam are currently working with Widerøe, the largest regional airline in Scandinavia, to deliver an all-electric passenger aircraft for the commuter market, which is planned to be ready for revenue service in 2026.